Lessons from Habakkuk: Part 4 (Habakkuk 2:6-8) – The Woe of Exploitation

habakkuk1God responds to Habakkuk’s queries by pronouncing five woes of judgement on the Babylonians. These woes are presented in five stanzas of three verses each. Collectively, they form a song of mockery and judgement. The woes paint a complete picture of the Babylonian’s sin and the judgement that awaits them. It is scary, however, how much the five woes apply to our modern culture. The reader of these passages doesn’t have to stretch too far to recognize these sins in our world today. The first woe is a prime example.  The First Woe: The Woe of Exploitation (Habakkuk 2:6-8)

6 Won’t all of these take up a taunt against him, with mockery and riddles about him? They will say: Woe to him who amasses what is not his — how much longer?— and loads himself with goods taken in pledge. 7 Won’t your creditors suddenly arise, and those who disturb you wake up? Then you will become spoil for them. 8 Since you have plundered many nations all the peoples who remain will plunder you — because of human bloodshed and violence against lands, cities, and all who live in them. (Habakkuk 2:6-8, NASB)

This first woe targets those who have become rich on the backs of others. It is important to recognize that the sin in this case isn’t being wealthy, but rather the method the Babylonians used to amass wealth. The passage says they amassed what was not theirs. They plundered their neighboring nations through bloodshed, violence, and dishonest practices. Because of their actions, the righteous will mock them (v.6). Verses seven and eight promise that their victims would eventually rise up and turn the tables on the Babylonians by plundering and pillaging their lands. History records that this woe came to pass in 539 BC when the Persian King Cyrus conquered Babylon.

How does this woe translate into our modern culture? It should be obvious to most of us. Today there are people, governments, and corporations who amass wealth on the backs of others. People steal, extort, and charge excessive interest for loans offered to the little guy. The financial systems of the world tend to be crooked and those who amass their wealth in unrighteous ways would be wise to pay attention to this passage. Again, it is important to understand the sin isn’t being wealthy, rather, the sin is to accumulate wealth by taking advantage of others. I believe the warnings present in this passage still apply today. Those who take advantage of others will be mocked by the righteous. They most certainly run the risk of their victims rising up against them. There is no doubt that they will eventually have to face judgment for their actions.

Pastor Mark Driscoll offerer this chilling warning in a sermon, “In the world who are the rich people? Response: We are. You are. You’re the rich people. You are. There are 90 countries in the world where the average citizen spends less on all of their goods, food, housing, transportation, everything, 90 countries where the average person spends less on those things than you as the average American citizen spend on garbage bags to throw out your junk. You’re the rich people.” It is often tempting to become egocentric and to forget how wealthy most of us are in this country as compared to the rest of the world. And I am certainly not suggesting we should feel guilty in someway because of the wealth we are blessed with. I am suggesting, however, that we need to understand that the way we handle our finances and accumulate wealth (both corporately and individually) is important to God. If we are not careful, we will follow the way of Babylon.

Sources
Mark Driscoll. Five Weighty Woes. http://marshill.com/media/habakkuk/five-weighty-woes Dr. Constable. Notes on Habakkuk. http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/habakkuk.pdf

Lessons from Habakkuk: Part 3 (Habakkuk 2:2-5)

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Before reading this post, you may want to get caught up by reading  Parts 1 and 2.

God’s Second Response

Then the Lord answered me and said, “Record the vision And inscribe it on tablets, That the one who reads it may run. “For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay. “Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith. “Furthermore, wine betrays the haughty man, So that he does not stay at home. He enlarges his appetite like Sheol, And he is like death, never satisfied. He also gathers to himself all nations And collects to himself all peoples (Habakkuk 2:2-2:5 NASB).

I find it so interesting that God instructed Habakkuk to inscribe the vision he was about to receive on tablets (v. 2). The vision was meant to be shared. Those who read it were to run and tell others. This is true of all God’s Word. It is meant to be shared. Christians are meant to share the Gospel of Christ just as Habakkuk was meant to share this vision.

God then warns Habakkuk to be patient (v. 3). Though the vision he receives concerns the future, Habakkuk is to exercise patience when waiting for it to come to pass. He was not to waver should it seem like God was taking His time. The writer of the Book of Hebrews would echo this sentiment some seven hundred years later when he reminded the Christian to exercise endurance, “For in yet a very little while, the Coming One will come and not delay” (Hebrews 10:37). God’s plan has been unfolding for thousands of years and we are called to remain confident that it will all come to pass according to His plans and on His schedule. Like Habakkuk, we must not waver or grow impatient.

God then directly responds to Habakkuk’s query concerning the Babylonians. How can God be silent as the Babylonians swallow up the righteous? God points out that the Babylonians are sinfully proud and their souls are not right (v. 4). God contrasts the Babylonians’ posture with that of the righteous who live by faith. This implies that Babylon, despite its strength and might, will not live because they fail to trust in God. In his commentary, Dr. Thomas Constable explains that 2:4 is pivotal in understanding the Book of Habakkuk:

This is the key verse in Habakkuk, because it summarizes the difference between the proud Babylonians and their destruction, with the humble faith of the Israelites and their deliverance. The issue is trust in God.

In verse 5, God compares the Babylonians to the public drunkard. He staggers about exposing his appetite for all to see. He is never satisfied … never sated. The Babylonians may be hungry to gather all peoples and nations to themselves yet it is all in vain for they have failed to put their trust in God. Their fall is inevitable. God justice will prevail in time.

Principles for Christians Lives from Habakkuk 2:2-5

  • God’s Word is meant to be shared: We are commanded by Christ to share His gospel with others. His Word is essentially a love letter to mankind. We shouldn’t study it solely to build up our knowledge – we should study it to share it.
  • God’s plan will come to pass in His time: We should not grow weary or waver. Rather, we should have faith that God’s plan will come to fruition just as He has promised. In the meantime, we are to exercise patience and live in faith.
  • God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6): Knowing this, we should posture ourselves humbly before God. We should recognize that He is God and we aren’t.

Related posts: Part One and Part Two

 

 

 

 

Lessons from Habakkuk: Part 2 (Habakkuk 1:12-2:1)

As I wrote in part one of this study, I have developed a serious love for the Old Testament book of Habakkuk. Since it has been my experience that most people (even Christians) have never heard of, nor read, this book, I have unofficially labeled it as “the best book of the Bible you have never heard of.” In the first post of this series we studied verses 1-11 and read of Habakkuk’s complaints to God concerning the sins committed by his fellow Jews. In a tone that is remarkably similar to that of Christians today, Habakkuk asked God why there is no justice in the world. God responded by telling Habakkuk he would be amazed by God’s plan for judgment where the nation of Judea was concerned. Just as He has used the Assyrians to judge Israel, God had raised up the army of Babylon to levy judgment upon the people of Judea. In light of this revelation, Habakkuk has further complaints.

Habakkuk’s Second Complaint

12 O LORD, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One, we will not die. O LORD, you have appointed them to execute judgment; O Rock, you have ordained them to punish. 13 Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves? (Habakkuk 1:12-13)

Now that Habakkuk is aware of what’s in store for his people, he has serious reservations concerning God’s plan. Habakkuk is stunned that God would use a people as evil as the Babylonians to execute His will. In Habakkuk’s mind, this only serves to complicate the issue as, once again, the wicked are prevailing. As stunning as it seems, God’s revelation to Habakkuk reveals two things concerning the methods He is willing to use to advance His will: First, in God’s sovereign authority over the entire world He is not above using wicked people to advance His will. Secondly, God will use people whether they realize it or not. Certainly, the Babylonians had no clue they were serving the will of the one true God as they advance against Judea. It has been my experience that God still works in this fashion today. As a believer who came to Christ at the age of thirty, I can look back to my days before Christ and recognize the moments when God was working in my life even though I didn’t know it at the time. How amazing it is to serve a God who will “ordain” people to serve Him; even if they fail to recognize and admit it – or even object to it.

Habakkuk then continues his plea to God:

14 You have made men like fish in the sea,  like sea creatures that have no ruler. 15 The wicked foe pulls all of them up with hooks, he catches them in his net, he gathers them up in his dragnet; and so he rejoices and is glad. 16 Therefore he sacrifices to his net and burns incense to his dragnet, for by his net he lives in luxury and enjoys the choicest food. 17 Is he to keep on emptying his net, destroying nations without mercy? (Habakkuk 1:14-17)

Habakkuk’s plea with God strikes at the very nature of mankind. Within this complaint, there is a veiled accusation; Habakkuk asserts that God has made men like fish in the sea; running about with no direction and at the mercy of the wicked. Habakkuk then astutely observes that the wicked exercise their power over the weak without mercy to the point that they eventually begin to worship their own power and military strength. It is a plot that has been played out throughout history. Wicked rulers accumulate military might for the sole purpose of unleashing it upon the weak.

The last verse in this passage (verse 17) is especially poignant. In his Commentary of the Whole Bible, Matthew Henry writes, “The prophet, in the close, humbly expresses his hope that God will not suffer these destroyers of mankind always to go on and prosper thus, and expostulates with God concerning it?”

Henry continues to compare Habakkuk 1:17 with Psalms 74:22, “Arise, O God, plead thine own cause: remember how the foolish man reproacheth thee daily.”

What Habakkuk does next is a lesson for all of us:

1 I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint. (Habakkuk 2:1)

Habakkuk removes himself from others and waits in solitude for God’s answer to his plea. Consider the imagery in this verse. “Standing watch” and “stationing himself on the ramparts” elicits images of the night watchmen diligently looking out for the ensuing army. In Judea, ramparts were mounds of earth outside the city walls where watchmen would stand guard as the first line of defense against invasion. In this verse, Habakkuk is intentionally placing himself in a quiet, solitary place in order to hear from God. Despite his complaints and pleas, Habakkuk is expressing incredible faith in his God. He has asked a question and he expects an answer. The prophets actions in this passage are not unlike the Messiah’s who frequently sought out solitude to pray and communicate with the Heavenly Father:

12One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. (Luke 6:12)

In addition, Christ advised that the rest of us follow suit:

5“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. (Matthew 5:7)

There are so many distractions in today’s world that compete with God’s voice for our attention; music, television, computers, cell phones. If we truly expect to hear from God, we must model Habakkuk’s behavior and seek solitude and quiet.

Principles for our Christian Lives from Habakkuk 1:12-2:1

 

  • We should recognize God’s will cannot be resisted: God uses many methods to execute His will; He is not above manipulating the wicked and the ignorant. The Lord is in control!
  • When seeking God’s Word, we should intentionally seek solitude and quiet: As believers who are save by Christ, we should be confident that God wants to communicate with us. This communication will often necessitate that we seek solitude and quiet our minds in the confident hope that God will speak to us.

In the next lesson, we will study God’s response to Habakkuk’s plea.

Related Post: Lessons from Habakkuk: Part 1 (Habakkuk 1:1-11)

Lessons from Habakkuk: Part 1 (Habakkuk 1:1-11)

I recently developed a love for the Old Testament Book of Habakkuk. In its three short chapters the reader will find a refreshing honesty and get an “inside” look at the sovereignty and character of God. I’ve been reading Habakkuk for a few weeks now and planned to share a post regarding it; however, I soon realized that one post wasn’t enough … so here is the first in what will be a short series.

Lessons from Habakkuk: Part 1 (Habakkuk 1:1-11)

Nothing much is revealed about Habakkuk in the pages of the Old Testament book that bears his name. The book opens with the following nondescript words, “The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet received” (Habakkuk 1:1). Perhaps as a result of vagueness of this opening, there are a few legends concerning this prophet. Ancient tradition suggests Habakkuk was the son of the Shunammite woman and was restored to life by Elisha in the Book of 2 Kings while others believe Habakkuk delivered a meal to Daniel while in the lion’s den.  Aside from these legends, all we really know was that Habakkuk was a prophet who lived before Judah went into exile approximately six hundred years before Christ. The lack of description concerning Habakkuk’s background benefits the reader in that too many details would detract from the important lessons revealed within the pages of this particular Hebrew text. Habakkuk was a man with many complaints against the Lord and his interaction with God has much to teach the modern reader.

Habakkuk’s Complaints

Habakkuk lives in a Judah that has run completely adrift in its sin. Idolatry, sacrifices to pagan gods, and wickedness were the norm amongst the Hebrew people. The wicked King Jehoiakim had done all he could to remove’s God’s influence from his nation. It was in the midst of this chaos that the prophet Habakkuk took his complaints straight to God:

“How Long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted” (Habakkuk 1:2-4).

There is a familiarity to the modern reader in Habakkuk’s complaints. We too live in a world where there appears to be no justice. In the aftermath of 9-11, many of us have wondered when the evil will get their just rewards. In our schools and workplaces it is often the wicked that get ahead while the righteous are left in their aftermath. In the media, it is even the Christians who are portrayed in the worst possible light. Often, things are completely opposite of how they seem they should be. Our troubles are too numerous to list. None of us can escape the stress of our modern existence.

Habakkuk lived in that world. If there was one nation that should have lived in God’s will it was Judah. The Hebrew people had been blessed with a special relationship with the living God and yet they still descended into a warped existence of pagan idolatry. There nation was filled with violence, strife, and conflict; everything was the exact opposite of how it should be … and Habakkuk was tired of it. He wanted justice to be served immediately. He wanted the evil people to get their just rewards. As such, he cried out to God and levied complaints that can be summed up in two words, “How long?”

There is a lesson here for modern readers. Habakkuk was honest when he addressed the Lord; he didn’t try to approach with religious “talk” and ceremony. He cut straight to the chase and presented his questions directly to God. We can approach God in the same way.

God’s Reply

The Lord doesn’t allow Habakkuk’s questions to go unanswered for long. He responds by telling the prophet that he will be amazed by the plan God has to judge the Hebrew people.

“For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans [Babylonians], A bitter and hasty nation which marches through the breadth of the earth, to possess dwelling places that are not theirs. They are terrible and dreadful; Their judgment and their dignity proceed from themselves. Their horses are swifter than leopards, and more fierce than evening wolves … they come for violence …” (see Habakkuk 1:5-11).

Much like Satan enjoys “roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it” (Job 1:7), the Babylonian army marched the breadth of the earth and took possession of lands that weren’t their own. They were an evil, sadistic, conquering people and would serve perfectly as God’s vehicle to deliver justice to the nation of Judah. There are those who would say this reveals an evil side to God; that He would allow the Hebrews to fall into the hands of such a vile nation. This isn’t the case; much more is revealed concerning the evil nature of the nation of Judah, however, we do learn much here concerning the nature of God.

First, God is sovereign. He rains on the good and the bad; the lawful and the unruly. Just as God created the heavens and the earth He created all mankind and will use them as He sees fit. When Jonah protested because God blessed the people of Nineveh, God asked him who he thought he was to question the Creator (Jonah 4:4, 9). The same applies here … God will bless whom He chooses, judge whom He chooses, and use whom He chooses. It is His right as God.

Secondly, God will not tolerate evil in His presence. Just a century before rising up the Babylonians to judge Judah, God had used the Assyrians to judge the modern tribe of Israel (2 Kings). Judah failed to take notice! The Hebrew people were God’s people; He had chosen to take up residence among them and simply refused to allow them to remain consumed by idol worship and evil practices. The same is true in the lives of the individual believer today. God has chosen to take up residence in the members of His church through the presence of the Holy Spirit and He will not tolerate evil to remain in His dwelling place. Thus the need for the justification found in Christ and sanctification (the process wherein the believer is transformed into the likeness of Christ) (Additional Reading: John 17:17-19, Luke 16:13, John 14:23, and 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Principles for Our Christian Lives from Habakkuk 1:1-11

  • Be honest and open with God: Like Habakkuk, We should feel free to take our concerns, questions and complaints directly to God in the form of prayer.
  • We should understand that God is sovereign: The Lord is in charge and in control – even when we don’t see it or understand.
  • We must submit to sanctification: If we are Christians, God will not tolerate sin to reign unchallenged in our lives. We must make a choice between sin and Christ. If we fail to make this choice, God will act to get our attention.

It is amazing how applicable a book written nearly three thousand years ago is to our lives. In just the first eleven verses, Habakkuk establishes itself as a wonderful piece of literature that can teach us so much. I look forward to exploring the rest of the book!